Just the Tarot Posts

The Chariot Card and Getting Some Direction in Your Life.

I have to admit that I read Tarot cards for years before I flashed on the fact that there are no reins attached to the sphinxes in The Chariot.  As I said in my basic definition, this is a very deceptive card on its’ surface.  The charioteer looks like he’s totally in control of the situation but, upon closer examination, there’s no sign of control at all.  The sphinxes are black and white, representing opposing forces, and they’re sitting on their butts, not moving forward. And they’re not harnessed to The Chariot. The charioteer might as well be a lawn ornament for all of the real action that’s involved.

What The Chariot is really all about is figuring out what your goals are going to be.  And, since this is a card of the Major Arcana, it’s not about figuring out what your minor goals are going to be.  It’s not about what you want to do next week or next month or even next year. It’s about figuring out what you want to do with your life.

Put it this way:   goals, desires, life purpose are what puts harnesses on the sphinxes and puts the reins in the charioteers hands.  Your goals are what motivate you, what cause you to go forward and evolve instead of just sitting in place. You have to know where you want to go before you can start your journey.

And, like The Chariot, that can be deceptive on the surface.  Most of us hustle and bustle through life being good at what we do.  We do a good job for our employers, we’re good parents, we’re good sons and daughters and friends.  And, as long as we’re, “doing good,” we figure that’s enough. We fill our busy schedules up with so many details that we don’t even have time to think.  We don’t question why we’re here. We’re here to work hard and buy IPhones, right?

We usually don’t contemplate if that’s really all that there is until, unfortunately, we encounter a tragedy or a catastrophe.  The death of a life partner or our parents or children, a terrible divorce, losing all of our possessions and going bankrupt. And then we get hit smack between the eyes with those very troubling questions.  Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? Is this all there is to life? Is there some purpose to all of this that I’m supposed to fulfill?

And then there’s a big surprise.  Those are REALLY HARD QUESTIONS!!!  You can go through a lot of fortune cookies and not find the answers, believe me.  

One way to get started is The Subtractive Method.  If you can’t quite figure out who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing, then figure out what you aren’t and what you’re not supposed to be doing.

There’s a Feng Shui exercise where you walk into a room and you just feel its’ energy.  You try to sense what’s harmonious in the room and what isn’t. If there’s something that feels like it doesn’t fit with the energy of the room and your personal energy field, then you subtract it.  And you keep subtracting until the energy feels right. For example:

“Hmmmm . . . this is my meditation room.  I have my statue of the Buddha and my painting of Red Tara.  There’s my altar bowl with the incense in it. Altar, meditation pillow, check. The quartz crystals on the window sill feel good.  And . . . um . . . that giant stuffed giraffe with purple polka dots that my boyfriend gave me. That’s wrong. That’s definitely wrong.  I’ll subtract that . . .”

And you can do the same thing with your life.  Remove what’s NOT you until what IS you starts to emerge.

Here’s a neat trick that life coach Tambre Leighn suggests in her course on dealing with the grief process:

A – get a pen and paper and write out one word listings of things that are important to you.  These might be things like love, serenity, happiness, music, art, friendship, etc.

B – go back and write a brief sentence for each word describing what they actually mean to you.

C – arrange them in order of importance, most important to least important.

So now you have a list that you can call your, “core values.”  These are the things that are most valuable to you in life, therefore they are clues as to why you’re here and where you should be going.

Keep the list handy.  When you’re faced with decisions like, “Do I really want this job?” or, “Am I really interested in this person?” take a look at your list.  Is the job or the person really compatible with your values? If quiet and serenity is important to you do you want to get involved with a guy who’s a party animal?  If peace of mind is important to you, do you want a high pressure job with a lot of extra demands?

As you continue to eliminate or subtract people and situations that are incompatible with your values the real you will start to emerge.  You will start to instinctively move toward energy that’s compatible with your higher purpose and you’ll be on your way.


The Lovers and The Devil – That Old Black Magic Called Love


Falling in love always seems like a magical experience.

You see someone across the room at a party and suddenly a giant, sizzling fireball shoots directly from your second chakra into theirs, or vice verse, and you involuntarily shout, “Zounds!”

Well, you’d shout, “zounds,” if you were at a party in the Middle Ages.  Today it would more probably be, “holy shit!” or, “wow!” or, “OMG . . . WTF?”

The point is that it’s often sudden, totally unexpected, and irresistable.  It’s like an outside force has taken over your conscious brain and turned you into a stuttering, romantic, totally bedazzled, HAPPY fool.

The scholars tell us that the notion of romantic love first appeared in the Middle Ages (zounds!).  Presumably before that, “Romeo, wherefore art thou?” was more a matter of, “Me, Tarzan, you Jane, let’s . . . ahem . . . reproduce.”

That doesn’t seem likely, though.  Solomon had some pretty steamy stuff going on 900 years before Jesus appeared and even talked about how much he enjoyed, “eating my honeycomb,” on his wedding night.  Must have been a very sweet woman.

Despite it being a wonderful, magical experience, there have always been a certain number of men who find it problematic.  One assumes they feel it’s not manly to be turned into a gibbering idiot by another person and that someone must have put a damned spell on them to make them feel all gooey inside.  The word, “glamour,” is directly descended from the word, “glimmer,” which means to cast a spell on someone. We speak of beautiful women as being, “enchanting,” and an enchantment is, of course, a spell.  And look at this version of The Lovers from an old Swiss Tarot deck:


Yep, that’s still Cupid shooting his arrow but there’s also a nasty old hag of a witch cackling away on the side.  She obviously just slipped him some Love Potion #9 and he doesn’t know if it’s day or night.

So we’ve pretty much got the picture on falling in love.  It’s overpowering. It’s magical. It seems to be beyond our rational control.  The Waite Tarot takes that a step further and shows it as a holy, sacred experience, guarded by an angel.  An experience as innocent and fresh as the Garden of Eden.

But wait. ( Or maybe I should say, “But Waite.” ) What’s that snake doing in that apple tree on the left hand side of the card?  Who invited him to the party?

Which brings us to The Devil card.


It’s the same naked couple but they’ve got an entirely different angel hovering over them.  And they’ve sprouted horns and tails and the guy’s tail is on fire. Typical male – only thinking of one thing, right?

Now, The Devil card can have a lot of meanings.  Materialism with NO spirituality. Violent sex. Black magic.  Just plain evil. But in this context, let’s look at it as the opposite of romantic love.

Say it’s fifteen years after the couple fell in love.  They’ve got three kids and a mortgage they can’t afford.  The wife just caught the husband playing hide-the-sausage with the baby sitter but doesn’t feel like she can leave him because of the kids.  And she is SO not interested in going to bed with him again. Ever.

They’re still the same couple and they’re still together, but their love has been transformed into a chain that binds them together in emotional slavery.

If you’ve ever been in a loveless marriage, or even knew someone who was, then you know that it shares some of the characteristics of romantic love.  It’s overpowering. It seems to come out of nowhere. It turns normally rational people into gibbering fools. But eventually, it makes you dead inside.

And I would guess that there is a further message in this couple appearing in The Devil card.  Living in a loveless union with another human being isn’t just wrong, it’s evil. It robs both of the partners of the love that they deserve, the love that makes us grow and blossom into full human beings.  It defeats the purpose of our being here on the earth plane, which is surely to learn love and compassion.

Here’s to love!

The High Priestess and Growing Your Intuition

The High Priestess represents our connection with what some people call, “deep mind.”  She is our – frequently unconscious – connection with the higher realms of spirit and magic.  She is the exact point where the truth travels through the creative, feminine right brain and emerges in consciousness in the linear, masculine left brain as a flash of, “intuition.”

It all sounds very complicated but it’s not.  It’s actually hardwired into our system but we’ve taught ourselves to ignore it.  Our language, however, is replete with phrases describing it.

“I had a hunch . . .”

“I just had a feeling . . .”

“Something told me . . .”

“I just knew . . .”

What all of that describes is suddenly reaching a firm, undoubtable conclusion without any preceding rational thought.  And, yes, it seems magical for exactly that reason: it seems to burst out of nowhere.

Another way that it manifests is as a, “sixth sense.”

If you’re hiking in the woods and a predator is watching you, you somehow, “know,” it and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.  Combat soldiers describe the same feelings just before the enemy starts shooting at them.

A classic example is thinking of someone you haven’t seen in years and the phone suddenly rings and it’s them.

A silly example is that if a man is walking behind a woman and stares at her butt she will always know that someone is staring at her butt.  I don’t know how women do that, but it’s true.

Now, to a rationalist all of that is impossible.  You can’t, “sense,” that a mountain lion is watching you or that a guy is staring at your butt or that an old friend is about to call.  But we still do. It happens and we all KNOW that it happens.

So, two thoughts on, “intuition,” that we should probably keep in mind.  First of all, we live in a society that denigrates it and treats it as if it’s irrational.  It’s not irrational, it’s NON rational, or perhaps META rational. It has nothing to do with the left brain, logical, linear thinking process that the western world worships.  It, “arrives,” out of thin air, like a telegram from an angel. But it’s also not a metaphysical belief.

It’s important to be clear about metaphysical beliefs.  I’ve known christian fundamentalists who believed that Jesus is right there at their sides 24/7 to solve each and every problem that they’ll ever have.  And that this beautiful world of ours is positively dripping with devils and demons who have nothing better to do than make people have, “impure thoughts,”  about their neighbor’s wives.

I think fundamentalists are total fruit cakes but, hey, they’re welcome to believe whatever they want.

I believe in ghosts and spirit guides and totem animals and the Goddess, and I’m sure the christian fundamentalists think I’m a total fruit cake.

The point with either set of beliefs is that they are metaphysical and totally unprovable one way or the other.  They are NOT demonstrable facts. They are beliefs.

Intuition, on the other hand, operates daily in the physical world.   There are millions of reported incidents of it and anyone who says it’s not real is either in denial or an idiot.

Second, we can all do it.  And we can get better at it.  That’s important.

We tend to think that some people are psychic and some people aren’t.  Some people can read Tarot cards and some people can’t. Some people can achieve enlightenment and some people never will.

It’s not true.  It’s just a function of time and effort.  I guarantee you that if you sit down every day and concentrate on your brow chakra for 15 minutes you WILL start to see some magical, astral scenes.  If you read Tarot cards over a period of time you WILL become more psychic.

It’s exactly the same deal with intuition.  It’s something that you were born with and it’s just a matter of practicing.  Start paying a little more attention to your feelings. Start asking the universe (or your angels or your spirit guides or your totem animals) for answers when you’re puzzled about something.  And the answers will appear. Just like magic.

You are The High Priestess.  You just forgot.

Donald Trump, The Empress, and The Emperor

I have to admit that I’m always a little puzzled when I run across one of those news columns discussing, “Donald Trump’s Toxic Brand of Masculinity.”  To me, a guy who gets daily manicures, has his dyed hair styled every morning, and bakes under a sun lamp until he turns orange isn’t masculine ANYTHING, toxic or otherwise.

But maybe I’m just being defensive on behalf of all of the sane men in the world.

Today IS the International Day of the Woman, though, so perhaps it’s a good time to talk about all of this.

The Emperor and The Empress, sharing the same exalted positions and residing side by side in the Tarot deck, are often – in fact usually – held up as examples of male and female energy in the world.  But let’s a take a step back from that. Let’s just consider them as examples of energy in the world. Different ways of being.

Ram Dass has a rap that says you can consider people on a number of different levels.  You can look at their skins and see black and white and brown. Or you can look at their signs of the zodiac and see Aries and Scorpios and Capricorns.  Or you can approach it like a psychologist and see obsessive compulsives and narcissists and dependent personalities.

Or you can take it right down to the bedrock and see Souls.  Fellow travelers on this very strange journey through this beautiful world who just happen to be incarnate as a Taurus or a Leo in black or brown or pink skin and seem to have developed a little problem with OCD.

Or to put that another way, we are all multiple patterns of energy existing in the Earth Plane.

And two of those patterns of energy are male and female.

There are, obviously, very valid and real differences between the two patterns.  The human body responds quite differently to testosterone and estrogen. Males tend to have more muscle mass and extra cones in their eyes.  Women tend to have more fat cells and to visualize more in patterns than lines.

We can take those differences and we can celebrate them as we do when we recognize both the God and the Goddess.  The problems start to arise when we view those differences as being absolute and we turn them into stereotypes. “Real,” men are always muscular and silently strong.  “Real,” women are always soft and fluttery and vulnerable.

I’ve known women who were so physically powerful that they could have bounced me down the driveway like a basketball.  And I’ve known men who were nervous nellies residing in very frail bodies. You can take any stereotype of masculinity or femininity and find examples of it in both men and women.

Likewise, we know that we all have both testosterone and estrogen in our bodies.  We all have both, “male,” and, “female,” hemispheres in our brains. Some men retain massive amounts of fluids when the moon is full.  Some women are natural born weight lifters.

So masculinity and femininity are much more of a continuum than a dichotomy.  It’s a lot more gray than it is black and white.

From that perspective it’s much easier to drop the idea of looking at The Emperor and The Empress as masculine and feminine energy and just look at them as ways that energy can exist on the Earth Plane.


The Empress is relaxed.  Comfortable. At ease in her world.  She reclines on a velvet throne, legs slightly spread, wearing an unfettered, flowing robe and she is crowned with stars.  She holds a sceptre – her symbol of power – but she holds it loosely, almost as if she’s forgotten she has it. A lovely waterfall flows out of a verdant forest behind her and wheat – the symbol of nourishment – grows in front of her.  And . . . is that a box of chocolate leaning up against her throne?

The Empress is very, very powerful.  She is the power of life and fertility but it’s a gentle, unassuming power.  Most of all, she BELONGS in her world and she blesses it and it blesses her.

And now look at The Emperor.


Kind of a nasty faced old man who looks like he’s suffering from a severe case of hemorrhoids.  He sits on a hard, stone throne (ouch) and tightly grasps a vaguely Egyptian looking sceptre. His garments are tight, as well, and reveal that he is fully armored beneath them.  Mountains rise behind him, barren of any vegetation, and far, far below him a river flows at the base of the cliffs.

The Emperor is also very powerful, but he’s very different from the energy of The Empress.  It’s tempting to view him as the alpha-dog but he’s so obviously, painfully alone that you know he doesn’t even have a pack to run with.  The Empress exists IN her world, as a part of her world. The Emperor has, “conquered,” his world, destroying anyone and anything that got in his way.  He’s at the top of the heap but his heap is a pile of ashes.

Sadly, there are still many people in the world (and, yes, they’re mostly men) who choose to adopt the energy patterns of The Emperor rather than The Empress.  And we all pay a price for their choice.

The Hierophant and the Gatekeepers

In my book, “Just the Tarot,”  I wrote this about The Hierophant:

“In the earliest Tarot decks this card was simply labeled, “The Pope,” and that’s exactly what he represents:  established religions. In fact, the Hierophant represents religion as opposed to spirituality. This card is about dogma and priests and ministers interpreting spirituality for you, instead of you experiencing it directly.”

Despite – or perhaps because of – being reared in the old Catholic faith I’ve always had problems with organized religion.

That resistance to it has been increased by the never ending parade of pedophile priests and the evangelical preachers who want to fuck anything and everything.  Except their wives, of course.

Keep in mind that these, “frail reeds,” (as they like to describe themselves right after they get caught) CHOSE to stand up in front of their congregations and hold themselves out as the messengers of god.  Got a problem? NO problem: god’s got the answer. BUT . . . you have to go through me to get the answer because I’m god’s messenger.

In essence, they become the gatekeepers to the divine and they only let in the people they choose.  Alan Watts, the Zen/Beat philosopher of the 60s, pointed out that this is a very calculated position.  If you go into 99% of the churches in the West you’ll see a pulpit that’s raised far above the seats of the congregants.  It’s a literal, physical telegram: I’m better than you and I’m closer to god than you.

It’s become somewhat of a cliche’ to talk about the difference between religion and spirituality (“I’m more spiritual than religious, man.”) but that’s it in a nutshell.  Highly religious people feel that you have to go through a third party (priest, preacher,rabbi,imam) to get to god and highly spiritual people feel that you can – and should – do it on your own.

Religiosity leads to spiritual and ethical laziness, both for the preachers and those who are being preached to.  

Religious leaders tend to think that they’ve got divine truth and spirituality in their books (bible, koran, etc.), sort of like a firefly trapped in a jar.    If you’re confronted with a moral dilemma, you don’t pray or meditate because you can just flip open your Book of Truth and find the answer.

Religious congregants don’t try to figure it out on their own, either.  They just go to their religious leader and ask what god says about it, the religious leader opens his book, reads a few paragraphs, and SHAZAM problem solved.

Unfortunately, spiritual truth dies when it’s confined to a book just as surely as a firefly dies when it’s confined to a jar.  And spirituality, the contact with the divine, atrophies when it goes unused, when we turn it over to someone else rather than doing it ourselves.

In short, you gotta walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  You don’t gain insight by putting someone else’s butt on a meditation pillow – it has to be yours.

The good thing about churches and mosques and synagogues is that they’re symbols of the deep seated yearning for unity with the divine that lives in the human heart.  The bad thing about them is that – for the most part – they don’t nurture and grow and encourage that yearning.

The Magician and Channeling Down Energy


The Fool is totally intoxicated with spiritual energy.  It’s just pouring into him and he’s dancing with the pure joy of it.

The Magician, on the other hand, is directing that energy.  We see him standing there in his robes, one hand pointed to the sky and the other pointed to the ground.  On his table are the four elements of the Tarot: wands, cups, swords, pentacles, also known as ideas, emotions, energy, and material.

He serves as a reminder that we are not alone.  We are not limited to our personal resources, our bodies and minds, as incarnate in this earth plane.  There are other realms of being and there is an infinite amount of energy available from those realms, energy far beyond what we think we possess.

And you can take a very, very, simplistic approach to that.  You don’t have to be a Master Occultist with secret knowledge of the Astral Planes and how to manifest that energy onto the Earth Plane.  You don’t have to go Full Wiccan and set up a Magic Circle with white candles at the quarters. You don’t have to be a Theosophist with intricate explanations of how the universe works.

Just start with three simple facts:

1 – you exist;

2 – there’s another realm of infinite energy;

3 – you’re connected to it.

No matter how beaten up or beaten down we may be, no matter how physically and spiritually exhausted we are, we have access to all of the energy we need any time we want it.

Don’t get hung up on names for the other realm.  Call it whatever you like – heaven, the astral plane, the angelic realms, foreverland . . . whatever.  I personally like the phrase, “Spirit World,” because it’s descriptive short hand without trying to put it in a box of faiths, creeds, or religions. But call it whatever rings true to you.

Don’t get hung up on methods for contacting it.  There are about a zillion religions and philosophies out there and they all claim to have the EXCLUSIVE method for getting in touch with Spirit World.  Bullshit. Try to think of it the way the Tibetan Buddhists describe it: at the level of our core being we are all beautiful, unique, crystals. The Light will shine through each of us in a different way.  For some, that light may be Reiki. For others, formal religions. For others, Wicca. Look around, experiment, and you’ll find what’s right for you.

In the meantime, there are simple, well established ways to get started with expanding your connections to the other realms.  Prayers work for some people. Meditation for others. Simply sitting quietly in nature and letting their hearts open works for others.  Dancing and shamanic drum circles may be your path.

Personally, I like meditation.  Rajinder Singh has an interesting book on meditating on the Third Eye (or brow chakra) called, “Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation.” and that can take you on a Magical Mystery Tour.

Or you might want to try meditations that are more heart centered.  Tara Brach has many, many FREE downloadable guided meditations here.

The path is always there, waiting for you, full of joy, love and energy.

The Wheel of Fortune and the Gifts of Karma


You’re rolling along doing great, happy as a clam, your life full of blue skies and smiles and – BLAM – you get fired from your job.  Or your girlfriend leaves you. Or even worse, you get fired from your job and get terrible, terrible reviews on your exit interview and you know your resume’ will be screwed up for years.  Or . . . wait . . . your girlfriend leaves you for a lesbian who ALSO happens to be your supervisor and fires you and they BOTH give you terrible, terrible reviews on your exit interviews and you know your resume’, your ego and your libido will be screwed up for years.

We’ve all had those moments when life suddenly turns to shit with no warning and for no discernable reason.  It happens to everyone. A rabbi named Harold Kushner even wrote a book about it called, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” that sold millions of copies.

Of course, you could also write a book called, “When Good Things Happen to Bad People,” but it probably wouldn’t sell as well.  Or you could write a book called, “When Good People Have Their Lives Turn into Shit Sandwiches and Then All of a Sudden Things Get Better For No Particular Reason.”

As the King of Siam said, “It’s a puzzlement.”

One of the reasons it’s puzzling for most of us is that we get that training from the time that we’re infants:  if you’re good, good things will happen to you. If you’re bad, no fruit cup for dessert and you stand in the corner.  It’s supposed to be a straight, cause and effect transaction that if you’re good you get rewarded, not kicked in the head.

But life is full of ups and downs, and The Wheel of Fortune is a perfect illustration of that.  At best our ill fortune can seem terribly random and at worst it can seem just plain perverse. A turn of some invisible wheel over which we have no control.


As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to take a lot of comfort in the concept of karma.  When a stranger decides he doesn’t like me and he’s going to make my life hell it makes more sense to me to think that I must have screwed with him in a past life than to think that he  just doesn’t like my nose or my aftershave.

And if you really embrace the concept it can actually help you to get through some horrific times.  “Yes, this is terribly painful and I’m going through some serious suffering. On the other hand, think of all of the bad karma I’m burning off.”

I remember the first time I had a serious discussion about karma.  I was taking a tour of a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center and the woman who was the tour guide and who lived there said:  “When we get up in the morning we try to live virtuously and if we do that we accumulate merit, which is good karma. And then we consciously dedicate that merit that we’ve earned to anyone who is suffering or in need.  Which is also a virtuous thing to do so we accumulate more merit by doing it and then we consciously dedicate THAT merit to others.”

To which I replied, “Huh?”

It took me a few years to get it but the key words there are, “consciously dedicate.”  

When we encounter the bad times in life – as we always do – live them consciously.  Endure them with grace and dignity. Be determined to learn and to grow spiritually from them.  Consciously dedicate those bad times to earning merit.

And when we’re having good times in life, consciously dedicate some of that extra energy and fortune to helping others who are having hard times.  

Conscious living makes The Wheel of Fortune make sense.